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Print On Demand vs. Large Run: Key Differences Explained

It’s no secret that print-on-demand (POD) printing has become popular for certain companies to deal with fulfillment, especially with limited-run merchandise. As a cost-effective way to get your items made on demand with minimal upfront outlay, POD is optimal. But large-run printing beat out POD in price and delivery time? Below, we’ll take a look at the pros and cons of POD and large-run printing so you can make an informed decision for your business.

What is Print on Demand?

POD refers to a type of printing in which items are printed after an order has been placed. It can be done by either a traditional printing press or a digital printer. The digital printing method allows for high-quality images and text on small items like greeting cards. Large-scale items such as banners and signs would require a printing press. POD allows businesses to create unique personalized products without the need for a large amount of inventory or warehousing. This system is ideal for companies that provide customized gift items like t-shirts and mugs, and it reduces the time and labor costs associated with managing a large inventory of items. It eliminates the need for upfront production costs since everything is done after an order is placed. However, there are some drawbacks to this method.

How Does Print On Demand Work?

  1. An order is placed with a printer. The printer then determines how many copies of the item need to be printed/fulfilled.
  2. A digital image of the item is used to create an electronic file called an imageset that is sent to the printer’s digital press.
  3. The text and images are printed on the digital press and then assembled into the final product.
  4. The finished product is shipped directly to the customer.  
  5. The customer pays for the product when the order is placed. 

Printers charge for the materials used to print the item as well as shipping and packaging costs. Some printers also offer discounted pricing for customers who place bulk orders.  

Benefits of Print On Demand

  • POD enables companies to create personalized products for their customers without having to carry an inventory of these items in stock. You can save money because you don’t have to pay for the cost of maintaining an inventory of these items.
  • This method allows you to offer a wide variety of products without increasing your inventory carrying costs.

Potential Cons of Print On Demand 

  • The cost of using POD can be higher if you use this method for large-quantity orders.
  • Shipping and handling fees can be expensive since items are shipped directly from the printer to the customer.
  • Customized products may take longer to produce than standard products because they require the involvement of multiple steps such as design, printing and assembly.

When to Use Print On Demand

When you have products that are highly customizable, you should use POD.

What is Large-Run Printing?

Large-run printing is used when your company has a large volume of orders coming in regularly for limited types of products. This run size involves printing large quantities of the same product to meet customer demand. This method is cheaper than POD for this situation because you are not required to purchase additional materials for each order. The production process is more streamlined because products can be created in the same facility and shipped in bulk once completed.  However, large-run printing may entail longer delivery times and increased shipping costs because of the scale. Also, most large-run printing services require you to order at least 500 copies of a single product to receive discounts. This method of pricing may not make sense for smaller businesses or startups that don’t have a steady demand for a particular product.

Benefits of Large-Run Printing

  • Cost-effective: This method allows you to minimize production costs by eliminating the need to purchase additional supplies for each item produced. You are also able to keep your production costs low by using the same equipment and processes for multiple orders rather than paying extra to use them only once. 
  • Fast turnaround: Since your products can be produced in one central location and shipped in bulk, you don’t need to outsource your orders to third-party vendors. Centrality can reduce processing time from several weeks to a few days, allowing you to meet your shipping deadlines more easily.
  • High-volume production: Most large-run printing services allow you to print over 1,000 copies of a single product in a single run. This feature allows you to meet the demand for a large number of products and ship them to your customers faster at a lower cost.

Potential Cons of Large-Run Printing 

  • Potentially higher costs: Larger quantities mean higher shipping costs.
  • Longer production time: Because of the bulk nature of large-run printing, it can be slower than traditional printing methods. It may take several days or weeks to complete a large order with this method.
  • Limited customization options: Large-run printing is best suited for products that are very similar or identical in design and appearance. It can be challenging to produce products with distinct designs and unique packaging using this method.
  • Higher minimum order requirements: Some large-run printing services require a minimum order of 500 copies to qualify for discounts. This minimum can be a deterrent for small businesses and startups that don’t have a large customer base yet.

When to Use Large-Run Printing

You should use large-run printing for a high quantity of products that need to look the same.

What is Short-Run Printing?

Short-run printing is used to print small quantities of one or a few similar items. This type of printing is ideal for smaller businesses and startups that need one-time or small-batch printing but can’t afford the high costs associated with high-volume printing. Short-run printing typically involves using digital printers instead of offset presses. This process makes it faster and less expensive to print small batches of products, but it is typically not suitable for more complex designs or multiple colors.

Benefits of Short-Run Printing

  • Lower prices: While short-run printing is still more expensive than digital printing methods, it is significantly less expensive than large-scale printing methods such as offset printing.
  • More flexibility: Because short-run printing uses digital printing methods, it’s usually easier to get different designs printed more quickly. With offset printing, you have to send out your art files and wait for approval before starting production. This process can take several days and delay the production schedule.
  • More customization options: Digital printing allows for more flexibility when it comes to customizing your designs. You can make changes on the fly and reprint as needed without incurring additional charges for design revisions. 
  • Easier ordering process: Short-run printing doesn’t require a lengthy approval process and makes it easy to reorder more copies of your products. You can usually place your order online and have your products delivered to your doorstep within just a few days.

Potential Cons of Short-Run Printing

  • Slow turnaround times: The turnaround times associated with short-run printing are largely dependent on the volume of orders you receive.
  • Limited color options: Most short-run printers have limited color options available for printing projects. If you want to print a colorful design, you’ll need to work with a longer-lasting print method such as offset printing.
  • Less sophisticated designs: Short-run printers are best suited for simple designs such as business cards, brochures, flyers, stickers and other marketing materials.

When to Use Short-Run Printing

Use short-run printing for minimal customizations that have a long lead time.

How to Decide Which Printing Method is Right For You

Offset vs. digital — which is better? No single answer to this question emerges because each printing method has its own pros and cons. Most businesses typically use a combination of digital and offset printing to satisfy their printing needs, and Print Bind Ship offers both. When it comes to large-run vs. POD on demand vs short-run printing, the choice comes down to need. If your company is printing shirts company-wide for a retreat that are all the same, large- or short-run printing might be the best. Inversely, if your company is printing shirts for your company’s intramural team, it might make more sense to do short-run printing or have each team member order their shirt on demand.

Print Runs Done Right

Large-run printing is best suited for large organizations that need high volumes of products in a short amount of time. These organizations are typically bulk purchasers who need printed materials on a regular basis. 

POS is great for small organizations and individuals who need occasional printed products without the high price associated with large-scale printing operations. These services are perfect for individuals who need to order small quantities of prints but don’t want to have to pay for high minimum order quantities. Regardless of your run type, Print Bind Ship can fulfill all your printing and shipping needs, with most orders shipped within 24 hours of processing.


Which printing method is most popular?

Large-run prints are the most commonly used by magazines, newspapers and retailers.

What is a run in printmaking?

When an order of any size is sent to print, it is called a print run.

Which platform is best for POD printing?

Print Bind Ship can have your prints out within 24 hours of processing using a range of printers from offset to digital.